A Pitbull go-go dancer proves to be no Coyote Ugly. Photo courtesy of Pitbull.
A promoter knows a party is good when people travel from out of town for the night. And what better vote of confidence for Pitbull than when partygoers from Montreal, known for its nightlife, are crossing the provincial border for the monthly event for queer men? Co-founder Francis Gauldreault chalks the success up to a focus on dancing and a lack of pretension. He says the goal of Pitbull was to create a space without judgement and throw a party for “any guy who wants to dance to great music, hang out with other dudes for beers and fun, and just generally have a good time.”
Although Pitbull caters to queer men, Gauldreault explains that everyone is welcome, and he takes pride in the variety of people who are drawn to the event. “We’ve had women in cocktail dresses, men with fur boas, drag queens, men in leather, men in Abercrombie, even two guys dressed up in TRON outfits—one was orange and the other yellow,” he says. “We are giving people a place to go out and express themselves.”
Nightlife has always been a portal into the cultural zeitgeist of a community. Will Munro’s now-legendary Vaseline parties heralded a shift to Queen West away from the big, glossy club nights that dominated the Village, and newer queer gatherings like Pitbull and HER have a decidedly smaller, more intimate come-as-you-are vibe. Gauldreault makes note of the change in men’s appearance from highly androgynous to hyper-masculine to now a more relaxed T-shirt and jeans look. Pitbull doesn’t fetishize youth and drug use as circuit parties can, and Gauldreault says part of the appeal of Pitbull is its unwillingness to be categorized as targeting a specific part of the community, or to be for “one specific guy type.”
The Pride edition of the Pitbull event drew more than 1,300 attendees. Photo courtesy of Pitbull.
Pitbull may have hit a winning formula as the event has steadily grown since its first edition in March 2010. “The first party was literally about a hundred of our friends,” recalls Gauldreault. “They had come out to be supportive—which was great—but it seemed like it was pretty much just our friends.” Awareness of the party soon spread through word-of-mouth, and by the time Pitbull threw a Pride-themed party, attendance had grown to 1,300. “We had to turn away 400 people,” says Gauldreault, a decision organizers made because they preferred to maintain a good experience, as the bar already couldn’t keep up with demand fast enough.
Gauldreault is quick to credit community support for the popularity of Pitbull, with sponsorship and promotion coming from businesses like the bar Woody’s and the cruising website Squirt. Having worked at different businesses within the Church-Wellesley Village over the past seven years, Gauldreault says he has witnessed the cooperation between businesses there. “The bigger the Village is, the better it is for everyone,” he says.
Now, Pitbull is ready to expand into new markets. Montrealers will get their first taste of the event at home in September—and Gauldreault is excited to see how the “relaxed sexuality” vibe of Pitbull changes as Montreal tends to be “more sexual and less conservative.” In addition, there has been talk of holding Pitbulls in Chicago and Provincetown. Those are ambitious expansion plans for any business, let alone one yet to reach its second birthday, but what else could you expect from a party with a name like Pitbull?